VICTORIA – The B.C. legislature’s top official has retired from his job Thursday after the release of a report by former chief justice Beverley McLachlin into misspent taxpayer money inside the capital building.
Clerk Craig James retired immediately as part of a “non-financial settlement” with the legislature after McLachlin’s report found he violated four of five areas of his employment.
However, sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, who also stood accused of wrongdoing, did not violate the terms of his employment. He remains suspended with pay.
“The special investigator found that Mr. James did engage in misconduct with respect to four of the five allegations, specifically in relation to making expense claims where improper purchases of a personal nature, by directing the creation of three benefits to his personal advantage outside established protocols, improperly removing legislative assembly property from the prescient… and by improperly using legislative property,” said NDP government house leader Mike Farnworth.
“I wish to inform this house that Craig James has retired effective today and that a non-financial settlement has been reached by Mr. James and the legislative assembly.”
James and Lenz were suspended with pay and escorted out of the building in November. Their employment status can only be changed by a motion and vote of MLAs in the house, because both jobs are officers of the legislative assembly.
MLAs hired McLachlin in March to be the independent arbiter of allegations made by Speaker Darryl Plecas into misspending by James and Lenz.
Her mandate was “a confidential fact finding to determine whether Mr. James or Mr. Lenz engaged in misconduct in the course of their employment as permanent officers of the legislative assembly.”
Plecas, who conducted a one year undercover investigation with his chief of staff Alan Mullen, has accused the two men of justifying tens of thousands of dollars in questionable purchases, including lavish overseas trips and inappropriate workplace vacation or retirement benefits.
The Speaker turned over his findings to the RCMP last year. The police asked for the appointment of two special prosecutors, and are investigating those and other unspecified allegations. No charges have been laid.
James and Lenz have denied any wrongdoing, saying they would co-operate with the RCMP probe and that expenses were approved by Plecas.
Plecas’s misspending allegations included wasting taxpayers’ money on a $13,000 wood splitter and trailer, a $1,200 suit, a $1,100 suitcase, $10,000 in alcohol, as well as lucrative retirement allowances and life-insurance policies.
He also highlighted a “conference” the two men attended in 2017 with 10 other people, including their wives, in Washington State in which an “earthquake preparedness” event on the agenda was actually a whale-watching experience and a seminar on large-scale evacuations at Safeco Field in Seattle was a Mariners baseball game.
More to come…